The lovely Seanan McGuire made several tweets today about something I honestly had never even considered as a problem, but has been twisting my brain around all day since she mentioned it. Basically, her point was that as women we are our own worst enemies, not through any fault of our own, but because of the way our culture raises us. She specifically mentioned something called “Smurfette Syndrome,” the idea that if you’re the only woman in a group, you are automatically the most beautiful and desirable, that really got the old gray matter churning.
If I think back on most of the cartoons and movies of my childhood aimed at girls, there is a recurring of jealousy to many, if not all of the female dominated story lines. Snow White is hunted by her wicked stepmother who wants to be the “fairest of them all,” and can only achieve that goal by killing Snow. Cinderella’s step sisters can’t stand her because she’s so pretty and they’re so plain. There is not a single male-led story I can think of that uses so plainly vain a motivation as a plot device. Boys are out for adventure or treasure, it doesn’t matter what they look like, but for girls the MAIN PLOT has to do with their level of attractiveness and how they are either lauded or maligned for how they look. Antagonists of girl shows and movies are almost always other women who dislike the main character because she’s beautiful.
Holy shit. That’s crazy, right? I mean bat-shit bonkers. We’re being taught we can’t trust each other and it’s so nefarious that I never even noticed it.
Back to “Smurfette Syndrome” for a moment. Why is it that the heroine so rarely has female friends she can depend on? If she does have a bestie who is a woman who she can rely on, it’s almost always someone who is geeky or frumpy—Velma, Willow (in the early Buffy years), etc. Seriously, every “attractive” woman who isn’t the main character in girl-led shows almost immediately hates the main character, usually because she’s afraid the protagonist is after her boyfriend. It’s an instinctive reaction and we all buy into it. The more I think about it, the more I’m weirded out by why this is at all okay.
I’ve never understood slut shaming, or how women can be so cruel to each other for no real reason, but now I have an inkling. I make a solemn pledge, here before the interwebs, that I will call this behavior out when I see it, and that I will not allow women to treat each other like crap on the basis of appearance or what they’re wearing. Slut shaming or calling other women names based on superficial bullshit will be an automatic unfollow on my social media feeds.
Smurfette, you’re fired as a female role model.
Rants and ranties,
PS - I apologize if this post sounds a bit too “conspiracy theory” for some. I know I’m treading close to that line, but I welcome discussion about shows or books that buck this trope and how crazy I sound. Please, change my mind.
Today I’ve got a special world building treat for the writers out there. Gail Z. Martin stops by my blog to talk about making holidays in fictional worlds. Without further babbling on my end, here’s Gail:
One of the most enlightening lectures we had all week was by author Laura J. Mixon. She discussed a concept I’d heard about before, that of writing happening in an almost trance-like state, in different context. She posited the idea that inside all of us creative types is an “other” who is in charge of the unconscious parts of the creation process. You could call it a muse, but Laura likes to call hers ‘the beast’. Over the course of the lecture she went over various ways to care for our inner beasts and how to help the connection between the conscious and unconscious minds.
The result of all this is that I call my internal writing buddy Floyd and in my mind he looks a little like a furry purple monster-thing. Well, something I found out this week while I was driving to work is that Floyd is the poet of the pair of us. Driving helps me disconnect that thinky part of my brain from the feely part, and that’s something I’ve known about for a while–I do some of my best writing while driving. I was sitting at a red light, minding my own business, when some birds flew down from an overhead wire and all of a sudden, off Floyd went. My new story started off as a single line:
The birds flowed down from the tree in a dark stream to cover the ground in a carpet of hopping, feathered bodies.
See? Told you he was a poet! The story isn’t actually about those birds at all, but that’s the image that got me going. I wrote 1470 words on it in my two-hour writing session last night (that’s a topic for another post), but I just wanted to share with my writer friends out there how well this kind of thing works, at least for me.
More about other lectures and what I’ve learned in the days since later.
Hearts and puppies,
I just got back from a week-long writer’s workshop called Viable Paradise. The workshop specializes in Speculative Fiction, but much of what’s covered could apply to any sort of writing. Even a few days later, I’m not sure I can relate how much I learned and what a thoroughly intense experience it was. I spent five days completely immersed in writing. From the moment I woke up until I went to sleep there was nothing else in my head. It was beautiful, and exhausting.
Meeting some giants in the field and two dozen other writers at a similar place in their careers was amazing. Beyond the lectures and critique groups, the conversations I took part in will shape my writing for years to come. My classmates were an eclectic group. I find it intensely interesting that the group was so thoroughly random with writing from wacky to serious and everywhere in between. Some writing was focused and intricate, and others were in a more storytelling, carefree style. I was in awe of everything I read while I was there, so much so that I kept thinking I must be the loser of the bunch. However, after my crit group and my one-on-ones with two instructors, I realized that I belonged there just as much as anyone and that was pretty damned magnificent. I have never felt more sure of and more confident in my choice to become a writer. I am humbled and I am happy.
I learned so much about how to write, and how to make a career out of writing that I thought I’d share a few of the most choice tidbits here:
I’m going to do another post later in the week about the incredible instructors and how impressed I was with them, but for now I need to catch up on some sleep.
Hearts and puppies,
This week’s bit of writing is a twisted retelling of Red Riding Hood I was playing with a few months ago. I was digging through some files and found it hiding, so you get a complete flash fiction story as a special treat. I hope you enjoy Red.
I’ve been writing something new this week that’s captured my interest. It’s a novelette-length contemporary romance between a swimmer and a poet called Deep Water. It may be the mostly sweetly romantic story I’ve ever written. That’s all you get on that one… for now.